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Shakespeare back at the theatre he knew

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The inaugural King’s Lynn Shakespeare Festival at the St George’s Guildhall is now just three weeks away and promises to be a treat for culture vultures.

The works of the Bard will be celebrated in workshops, performance and discussion in Britain’s oldest working theatre, the very one where it is thought that the great playwright himself performed in 1592.

The weekend will feature guests from stage and academia to honour Shakespeare’s connection with the town, with two guest performances by Sir Ian McKellen.

It is hosted by one of the most respected Shakespearean actors of his generation, festival director Andrew Jarvis.

Andrew Jarvis as Gonzalo in Sir Trevor Nunn's production of "The Tempest" at the Haymarket Theatre, London in 2011 - starring Ralph Fiennes
Andrew Jarvis as Gonzalo in Sir Trevor Nunn's production of "The Tempest" at the Haymarket Theatre, London in 2011 - starring Ralph Fiennes

Mr Jarvis moved to Clenchwarton from London a few years ago and little did he know that his great passion for The Bard would find a whole new outlet.

He said: “It was just time to get out of London and I had been looking down in Suffolk, but when I came to Clenchwarton I just knew it was the place. I love it.

“I knew nothing about Shakespeare’s link to King’s Lynn at all before I got here.”

Through the former councillor Avril Wright he became involved with work preserving the Guildhall and from that the idea for the Shakespeare Festival grew.

Mr Jarvis said: “For 30 years I had done solid Shakespeare and I have been fortunate to work with lots of significant people.

“I wrote to many, such as Ralph Fiennes and Sir Patrick Stewart, when the idea of the festival came up and they all wrote back in a very supportive way but, of course, saying they had diaries to work to – but then Ian came back to say he was doing this tour ...”

Mr Jarvis said that Sir Ian was only taking expenses for the visit and when he had come back to offer to do a second show on the Sunday, he couldn’t believe his luck.

He said: “I took about a second to say yes!”

He said he was hopeful that the Shakespeare Festival could become an annual event.

The festival starts on Friday, April 26, at 10.30am with a two-hour practical workshop on the words of Want to Learn How to Speak Shakespeare’s Verse. Suitable for students 16+.

On the Friday evening at 7.30pm Andrew Jarvis will give a selection of readings from Shakespeare.

On Saturday at 10am, and again at 1.15pm, there is a symposium on “Did Shakespeare Come to King’s Lynn”.

Sir Ian is onstage for his first appearance at 7.30pm on Saturday in a show that is already sold out, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others and YOU.

His show the following day at 2.30pm is again sold out.

That follows a Round The Table Q&A from 10.30am with the five scholars and an open panel.

Tickets for the workshops are £8.50 a session, or £30 for all the sessions (Sir Ian’s appearances, which are sold out, were priced at £35 or £20 concessions).

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